Press Releases

FutureMakers Coalition releases 2018 outcomes report

By | Press Releases

The FutureMakers Coalition recently released its 2018 outcomes report. The goal of FutureMakers is to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce through collective leadership along the cradle-to-career pathway. The pathway begins with early childhood learning and ends with postsecondary credential attainment and job placement. The coalition has grown to over 300 FutureMakers repre-senting business, education, government, nonprofits and philanthropy across Glades, Hendry, Col-lier, Lee and Charlotte counties.

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FSW Application Fees Waived Nov. 1-7

By | News, Press Releases

In order to minimize the financial burden of applying to college, prospective students can apply for admission to Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW) free-of-charge from Nov. 1-7.

The decision to waive admissions application fees for all new applicants was made in order to support the many individuals and families who were affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as the devastating earthquakes in Mexico.

“The recovery could take years and in some communities the damage is irrevocable. Many families now have to rebuild their lives from scratch,” said Dr. Christy Gilfert, Assistant Vice President, Enrollment and Student Success. “We’re waiving the admissions application fee for these prospective students because earning a degree or obtaining new skills is a step many people can take to change their lives for the better.”

With 266 sunny days per year and 50 miles of white sand beaches, the Southwest Florida region continues to be a great place to visit, live, and study. With four convenient locations, affordable tuition rates, and various certificate and degree options, FSW is one of the fastest growing colleges in the state. New opportunities and activities for students also continue to expand each year.

The FSW Office of Admissions is available to answer questions about the College or application process at [email protected] or (239) 489-9054. An FSW Open House is scheduled for Nov. 15 from 3-5:30 p.m. on the Fort Myers campus. For more information, visit

Florida SouthWestern State College is Southwest Florida’s largest and one of the most affordable institutions of higher education. Annually serving nearly 22,000 students globally, FSW offers a variety of nationally-ranked, career-focused academic programs with two- and four-year degrees, and professional certifications. Students are also active in clubs and programs catered to their interests. FSW debuted its intercollegiate athletics program in January 2016. Visit for more information.

Lee County’s first female welding graduate goes to work

By | News, Press Releases

Janet De La Cruz has always been inspired by the teachers in her life. When she was younger, she first wanted to be an elementary school teacher and later a speech language pathologist.

“In elementary school, I had the most amazing music teacher so that was my inspiration for wanting to teach,” she said.

Her career would take a drastic turn as a student at East Lee County High School, once again thanks to a teacher.

“My teacher, Mr. Filler was talking to me about what type of electives I could take,” she said. “He talked about nursing, fire fighting and emergency technicians, but those weren’t really me.”

Then he told her about welding.

“He said ‘Basically you’ll be playing with fire,’ and I said ‘That sounds awesome!’”

From the first class, De La Cruz was hooked and fell in love with welding. That elective led her to pursue dual enrollment her senior year in order to earn an industry certification through Fort Myers Technical College.

The welding technology class at Fort Myers Technical College provides a fast-paced, high heat learning environment for its students. De La Cruz was the class’s only female welding student.

In May, she became Lee County’s first female student to receive an American Welding Society certification and recently started her full-time career as a welder with Direct Industrial Products and Machining in LaBelle.

“Women are better welders,” said Michael Landrum, welding instructor at FMTC. “They have the three things that all my students need to succeed: patience, attention to detail and focus.”

When Brent Kettler, executive director with the Hendry County Economic Development Council and a member of the FutureMakers Coalition, learned of De La Cruz’s certification, he reached out to Mark Chapman, president of Direct to tell him about her accomplishments.

Direct is an industrial construction supply store and fabrication/machine shop that has partnered with the FutureMakers Coalition in the past on student mentoring. Chapman offered De La Cruz a position with his company the day of her interview.

“Janet is another example of how workforce development is a win-win for our community,” said Chapman. “We, like many other businesses in Hendry County, are in constant need of qualified workers for hard-to-fill trades positions. When business and education come together, not only are we paving the future for that student, we are providing them with the proper tools to work in the industry that they strive to do well in.”

“This is a great example of how the FutureMakers Coalition’s effort to connect education and business to transform the workforce is working,” said Kettler. “Business education partnerships are the key to filling in-demand jobs, improving the economy and creating social mobility.”

“Often times students will get a certification or degree but then don’t know where to turn to get a job,” De La Cruz added. “FMTC was so great because our instructor would bring businesses into the school to talk to us and tell us about career opportunities. It was really helpful for a student like me who wanted to go to work as soon as I finished school.”

The FutureMakers Coalition’s goal is to transform our workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by the year 2025.


The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the anchor organization for the Coalition. The FutureMakers Coalition encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected]

Foundational skills training launched by Hodges University

By | News, Press Releases

The FutureMakers Coalition’s Persistence and Progress Regional Action Team announces the development of a pilot project to address foundational skills, or soft skills, that were identified by local employers as barriers to hiring from the local workforce.  

After unsuccessful attempts to find examples of programs elsewhere that seem to be dealing with this national problem effectively, the team decided to develop its own project based on what the employment partners are communicating they need and the type of training that is missing from the education system in Southwest Florida.

Several exciting tactics are being developed by the cross-sector team, which includes several large employers.  

“The professional effectiveness certificate is a competency-based program and designed with major employers’ input, including Chico’s FAS, Lee Health, Arthrex as well as CareerSource Southwest Florida,” said Dr. Aysegul Timur, dean of the Johnson School of Business at Hodges University. “The curriculum will prepare individuals for the foundational skills necessary to be successful in the workplace. The FutureMakers Coalition made the connection possible, aligning the business community, educational needs, workforce development and the funding needed to respond to the need much faster.”

Hodges University has been working with the team to design a badge program that will allow students to get their feet wet in a higher education setting (possibly sparking interest in pursuing additional education), receive referrals from employers who want to see some additional professional development in an existing or potential employee, and to allow students already pursuing a degree or certificate to access needed training around the most needed foundational skills.  

“This is an extremely important initiative. It will help to address a key training need that employers, Workforce Now, FutureMakers and others have identified as impacting most economic sectors across our region,” said Dr. John Meyer, executive vice president of academic affairs for Hodges University. “I am thrilled that Hodges University and the Southwest Florida Community Foundation have been able to work together with employers to help bring this desperately needed certificate program to employees and potential employees across the region.” 

The goal of FutureMakers is to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce by increasing the number of college degrees, certificates or other high-quality credentials from 37 percent to 55 percent by 2025.

The Coalition is made up of regional partners in the areas of education, government, business, nonprofit, citizen stakeholders and advocates committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners.

“Hodges University is Southwest Florida’s leader in workforce education,” said Dr. Donald Wortham, president of Hodges University. “We are proud to partner with Workforce Now, FutureMakers, and CareerSource to provide students with an on-ramp to improved employment prospects, and employers with the skilled workforce that will keep our region competitive.”

The FutureMakers Coalition was one of Lumina Foundation’s 75 national Community Partners in Attainment. Residents are encouraged to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected]